Published February 24, 2011
“Seismic political shift.” It’s a common term these days both in the United States and around the world.
Everywhere the status quo is being turned on its head, and nowhere is that more apparent than in Washington’s current budget battle. An almost $2 trillion annual deficit, coupled with a $14 trillion national debt and an election earthquake last November, is turning the process upside down.
All of a sudden, congressional appropriations that have gone unquestioned for decades may get zeroed out, and there is no better encapsulation of this than the fight over taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. Simultaneously the crown jewel of the abortion industry and the abortion lobby, the liberal political powerhouse is poised to take a very hard fall.
For decades, Planned Parenthood’s political action committee has contributed millions to, and campaigned for, countless Democratic candidates. Its events often feature the leaders of the Democratic Party as keynote speakers, including the current president of the United States.
How did such a formidable political force become so vulnerable? It didn’t happen in one election.
Longtime abortion proponent Kate Michelman, writing in The Washington Post last year, credited a public opinion shift from pro-abortion to pro-life as the result of two efforts: the “Life, what a beautiful choice” ads in the 1990s, and the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act -- passed by Congress, signed into law by President Bush and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court.
She makes a good point, but the biggest weapon against the abortion lobby has been technology. As sonograms and ultrasounds become more advanced -- an expecting couple can now see their developing baby 3D in the womb -- the public becomes increasingly predisposed against abortion.
Several years ago, Valvoline Motor Oil aired a television commercial that featured a baby in utero driving a car and shifting gears, complete with NASCAR sound effects. Once popular culture adopts a particular notion or principle, it is almost impossible to roll it back.
For conservatives who often are on the defensive end of such dynamics, this was a welcome change. Surely, every parent and grandparent who has marveled at sonogram pictures over the past 10 years or so has quietly been influenced in favor of a pro-life position.
These people may not write their congressman, they may not march on Washington, and they may not picket a local Planned Parenthood clinic, but they have come to understand what is truly at stake in the debate, and it has shown up in numerous polls in recent years.
So when Live Action comes along with 22-year-old Lila Rose and her undercover investigations exposing Planned Parenthood staff who willingly counsel self-identified sex traffickers, no one is really ready to leap to their defense. Abortion alone makes most people uncomfortable, but abortion with no questions asked, no matter who is willing to pay -- financed by taxpayer dollars?
That can lead to a full cut-off from Congress, and it should. If Planned Parenthood loses its federal funding, that will be a seismic event followed by aftershocks the political world will feel for years to come.
Penny Nance is the CEO of Concerned Women for America, the nation’s largest public policy women’s organization.